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Oz the Great and Powerful (Blu-ray / DVD + Digital Copy)
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Disney’s fantastical adventure Oz The Great And Powerful, from the director of the Spider-Man trilogy,follows Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a small-time circus magician with dubious ethics. When Diggs is hurled away to the vibrant Land of Oz, he thinks he’s hit the jackpot — until he meets three witches (Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams), who aren’t convinced he’s the great wizard everyone’s expecting. Reluctantly drawn into epic problems facing Oz and its inhabitants, Oscar must find out who is good and who is evil before it’s too late. Putting his magical arts to use through illusion, ingenuity — and even some wizardry — Oscar transforms himself into the great wizard and a better man as well.
For sheer visual splendor, Oz the Great and Powerful is hard to beat. Even before the hot-air balloon of carnival magician Oscar "Oz" Diggs (James Franco) gets swept up in a tornado and hurled to the Technicolor land of Oz, the sepia tones of Kansas have a lush, almost velvety texture. Once Diggs arrives in Oz, he learns of a prophecy that he might be the wizard to free the land from the grips of a tyrannical witch--and from there, the movie juggles visual delights with a story that is regrettably half-baked. Some sequences and characters are skillfully realized (a little girl made of china is perfectly developed, both visually and narratively), while others seem propped up like cardboard cutouts. (Unavoidable comparisons to The Wizard of Oz, a masterpiece of vividly drawn characters, don't help.) Franco doesn't have the theatricality one might want for a carnival huckster, but fortunately his low-key performing style helps to ground the bright spectacle in human emotions. As witches wicked and good, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, and Michelle Williams all display charm and verve. The movie is flawed, but when Oz the Great and Powerful hits a right note, merging wonder and fear, dazzle and darkness, it's easy to forgive the weaknesses. --Bret Fetzer
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I was really impressed with the shift in focus from Dorothy to the Wizard himself. Having grown up with the original movie, and only seeing it once a year or so when it came on public television, the Wizard of Oz was more of an event than it was a simple movie. It was in the same category of movies as Frosty the Snowman or Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer.
It's for this reason that I really enjoyed this movie. It was able to remind me of those years long ago spent in front of a small black and white television, yet impress me with the visuals coming from a 4K 3D TV. Trust me, having experienced that amount of change really makes a huge impression on the viewer! It's hard to explain it to someone that's never seen a black and white television, so I don't think I'll try. Just know, if your lucky enough to have only been around long enough to see Television on large 16x9 sets, your going to be a bit confused to just how impressive the visuals are in this movie. It's only we older folk that remember what television was like so long ago.
I was a child of the seventies, and my television at the time was likely less than 20 inches, I'd venture closer to 13, so owning the new sets with 55+ inches of brilliant color and crystal clear images is breathtaking! When you add in 3D, well, your in another world altogether! This is that type of movie. The story doesn't have to be Shakespearean, the visuals alone will keep you glued to the set, but thankfully, there is some good story in there.
Now, it's not all roses and butterflies. Personally, I feel James Franco didn't spend enough time trying to make the role feel authentic, spending far too much time playing around. Perhaps that was the intention, but I just felt that he went a tad overboard with certain aspects of his character. He was a bit too cruel to the poor monkey that saved him from his nightmare, and to see that flip to just how caring he was to his porcelain friend was a bit strange, but of course, when looking back at the original movie, the wizard was a bit strange there as well, so perhaps it's all simply in my own head.
I'll admit up front, i can't judge Mila Kunis fairly as she's so breathtakingly beautiful that she can do no wrong for me, so I won't even try:) Rachael Weisz was great throughout, making me feel she genuinely cared about her role in the movie, so those two are cast perfectly for my taste in films.
If you liked the original film and always wanted to see more, but from a different perspective, give this movie a shot, you may come away surprised at what you find.
That said, I thought he did well in "Oz the Great and Powerful" as a shady, second-rate carnival magician who suddenly finds himself in a fantastical situation. A little over-the-top when the situation calls for it, he also shows surprising depth in some scenes.
The movie itself was a curious blend of animation, CGI, and live-action performances. I'm a little conflicted about how that worked because some of the scenes seemed a little overwrought to me. Not terrible, you understand; it just seemed that the production team was trying too hard to "make a classic" in the Disney tradition instead of just telling the story.
The actors - Franco included - were first rate.in this film. There are some critics who have been less than delighted with the job Mila Kunis did after she transforms from a beautiful - if naive - young witch into the wicked sister but I thought she did very well in a challenging role.
Likewise, some people have criticized the screenplay because they have - wrongfully, in my opinion - tried to compare this story with the 1939 "Wizard of Oz." L. Frank Baum wrote an entire series of books about the wonderful land of Oz and they each tell a different - if related - story. Because of that, I believe it's unfair to compare one with the other.
In summary: A very nice film with some very good performances by the cast and - if a trifle long - an enjoyable viewing experience.
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